With paint on their talons and school pride on their minds, River Valley High School Falcons have been leaving their mark on school walls this week.

Passers-by on Highway 20 might have noticed the giant letters taking shape, branding the gymnasium with the school's name and mascot. It's a project that's been in the works since the school's opening in 2005 and organized, designed and paid for entirely through students. "Students said the look of the high school, they always think of as a jail," activities director Cyndi Simmons said. "They said we need some murals, we need some color."

But as a new high school, there was not enough money to fund such a project. So the Associated Student Body decided to earmark profits from the student store, dances and snack bars to eventually beautify and brand the campus.

Finally, this year they had raised enough money — money which could only be spent for students, not on instructional materials or personnel. Members of the student senate voted on the final designs, and the school hired Boss Graphics of Pasadena for the project, which has a cost $18,000. Another $8,000 was donated by the senior class to paint the east facing wall.

Junior Anmolpreet Chahal was not sure the mural was worth the cost, but said it looks nice.

Senior class officer Gurkaran Singh disagreed, saying the mural may have been costly, but its value to the school is priceless.

"It's gonna be here for however long the school is here," he said. "It's awesome."

Student body president Gabby Coomes agreed.

"It's for generations past and generations to come. It's gonna be here for everybody," she said.

River Valley is spelled in white and silver lettering and outlined in black and green on the north-facing wall of the gym. Wrapping to the west, it says "Falcons," with the mascot emblazoned on one side, swooping in with talons outstretched.

"The definition of a falcon is a majestic creature," Simmons said. "He's a predator, he's fierce, he's agile."

The north and west walls should be finished this weekend, weather permitting and after adding a graffiti-protective clear coat. A third mural on the east wall, facing the stadium, should be finished by June.

Positive comments have been flowing in from community members, said Principal Tom Reusser. On Thursday, he got a call from his cousin, whose children graduated three or four years ago, and the message was "My kids say, 'It's about time.'"

The murals strengthen the identity and culture of the school, which in turn benefits the students, Reusser said.

"I could be talking to the best of the kids or the kids that get in trouble, and you ask them, 'Hey what do you think? Does this make you feel proud to be a Falcon?'" he said. "And everyone said, 'Yes.'"

Senior Jordan Pankey smiled as he passed through the quad on Thursday and looked up at the mural.

"It brings a little color and shows off the school here," he said. "It looked plain, and now it has some spirit."

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